Disintegrating Digital Fences: Finding Business Information in Ukraine and its Neighbouring Countries

February 5, 2004

There are many different business websites available on the Internet. However when the question deals with countries in newly developing economies, in particular Ukraine, Poland and Russia, the task at hand becomes a little more difficult. The ‘disintegration of digital fences’ in the region is primarily due to the fact that businesses, governments, the financial sector and regulatory bodies understand that the lingua franca of the business world is English. As a result, many efforts have been made to provide information that is comprehensible to the global community. This review will cover three useful sources that provide reliable business information in the given geographic territory: stock exchanges; specialized websites, including English language media; and sites funded by the international development community.


Taking stock

The equities market in Ukraine and many of its neighbours is not as developed as in market economies; however, I have found that the stock exchanges and their affiliated projects provide one of the most reliable sources of business information. The First Securities Trading System , Ukraine’s largest stock exchange, runs a site called iStock that has as its objective creating “a modern disclosure system in the securities market for provision of informational transparency of the issuers’ corporate activities”. The system provides companies with the means to file annual reports, and provides company news free of charge. The reports date back to 1997 and a news archive allows for searching on
company news. Russia, with a much larger equity market, clearly has a number of sources, however, one of my favourite sites is . Like its Ukrainian counterpart, Rustocks.com’s aim is “to facilitate the process of information disclosure for issuers”. With free registration, there is a fair amount of information on Russian firms that are trading on the Russian markets; however, like many other free services, it offers a premium service for which you can pay. I am unaware of any similar sites in Poland, though I have found the Warsaw Stock Exchange site useful and it does provide basic information on its listed companies, many of which have a solid web
presence providing full disclosure and much of their information in English.

Getting the goods

Early last fall, one of our firm’s lawyers called me asking if I had seen the latest on the United States Trade Commission’s decision to increase tariffs on a number of different products originating from Russia and Ukraine. “I need to know all the different manufacturers of the products on the list and their contact information by tomorrow afternoon,” he hastily requested. Fortunately, I was familiar with the Industrial Ukraine site which
allowed me to track down the required information for Ukrainian producers. One caveat, although the site lists 5,500 enterprises listed on the Russian-language site, less then half of these are available in the English language version. Nonetheless, the site allows one to search by product or service and provides users with contact information, products produced, and like many commercial
projects, a region or area in which domestic businesses are looking for international partners.

Trying to find the Russian manufacturers of the products needed was much more difficult, often first finding an article which referred to both a company and a product, then searching for the company’s website, often found on the B2B Russian portal . For more general business information, it
is well worth checking Pravda’s site , as well as The Economist’s country profile for Russia . I highly recommend The Economist country profiles as a starting point for any research on the region.

A good place to start for company information in Poland is the Polish Chamber of Commerce at . Its searchable company database, which covers nearly 2 million basic company records and more than 100,000 full records, can be searched using very basic boolean searching, though you will have to know the Polish spelling to find what you are looking for. In addition, a fee-based service of obtaining credit reports on Polish companies listed on the site is
available.

Two other sites worth mentioning are the portal, due to its simple uncluttered look and useful links, and the Warsaw Business Journal at , which provides current news stories, and promises soon to provide a search facility of their archives. For the most part, specialized sites can be very useful, though one should not forget the local traditional print media that has migrated to the Web.

The following two sites both require registration. The Kyiv Post has long been a source of information for the expat community in Kyiv (or Kiev), though little content is freely available. The two year old Kyiv Weekly provides some business information though not as in-depth as the former; however, there has been a change in ownership and the publication has increased in substance. Other sources that are
available for free are the digest of the Kyiv based newspaper The Day , the weekly analytical publication Dzerkalo tyzhnia and Ukrainska Pravda . Each of these publications, to a certain extent, covers domestic economic and business issues, and often provides very solid analysis by some of Ukraine’s best analytical journalists.

Running a tight ship

Ukraine, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index is one of the most corrupt nations on the planet. And although it may be perceived as such, one only has to recall recent fraud scandals
involving the likes of the U.S.-based Enron and Worldcom and most recently the Italian dairy company Parmalat, which forces westerners to remove their rose-coloured glasses and start truly questioning corporate governance practices. Like everywhere else in the world, this issue has become very topical. In fact, there are a number of sites clearly dedicated to this issue.

In Ukraine, the International Finance Corporation supports and runs the
Ukraine Corporate Development Project , while in Russia the OECD/World Bank – Russian Corporate Governance Roundtable supports the Corporate Governance in Russia project
. In Poland, the Warsaw Stock Exchange touches on this issue to a somewhat lesser degree (see above). The Center for International Private Enterprise also cover corporate governance globally and lists its global partners . Among those listed for the regions covered by this review are some of each of the country’s most respected think-tanks. These are worth examining
when trying to get a better understanding about business and even the economic environment in which businesses must function.

It would not be fair to say that a great deal of information is readily available, but with time we hope the situation will improve. Until it does, many of the links provided should assist anyone interested in business information in the region with a good starting point. Clearly, those without the handicap of language will be far more successful in finding their needle in a haystack.

Source: FreePint